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Election Observation and Deepening Democracy in the Commonwealth

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Since the Harare Commonwealth Declaration in 1991, deepening democracy has been a key goal of the Commonwealth. It is fundamental for the Commonwealth to continue to promote democratic values and work towards sustaining participatory cultures in member states. Not only does the democracy programme promote political stability, but equally important, it contributes to economic and social development. Seven main recommendations, divided into 23 in the text, are made here. These aim to strengthen the relationship between election observance and the creation of a sustainable democratic culture. (1) Domestic observer organizations are emerging throughout the Commonwealth world. The Secretariat should increase their support for these local groups, primarily in the area of training and resources. It is through the support of local capacity building that democracy can be sustained over the long-term. (2) There is a need for a longterm com ponent to the election observation programme, for a follow-up mechanism, for improved media monitoring, for specific training for observers and for a detailed, clearly written and widely distributed report. (3) Closer links between the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth NGOs that work in this area - effectively arguing for a 'joined up' Commonwealth approach to democratic development. (4) Promoting democracy through election observer missions is expensive. It requires personnel and r es our ces. The credibility of the C om monwealth election observer/democracy programme is being undermined as a result of financial constraints. Staffing and financial shortages should be tackled through increasing budgets and through internships. (5) There is a strong case for restricting the use of teams composed only of Secretariat staff as they do not have the independence, transparency, scope, prestige or high profile of the full Commonwealth Observer Groups. (6) The involvement of the Commonwealth's young people is a pressing priority which could be encouraged by a programme of internships, and young people should be included on observer missions. (7) The remit of CMAG should be expanded and Heads of Government Guidelines for Commonwealth Observer Groups should be rewritten based on 10 years' experience of Commonwealth election observation.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2001-09-01

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